Must Read Op-Ed and Profiles


#181

I really learned something here. I never realized why crimes committed as part of a conspiracy are levied much more severe penalties than crimes committed by an individual – even though, on the face of it, the crimes may be very similar. This article explained the reasoning and it makes sense to me. I guess it must make sense to lots of people, since, as the article explains, conspiracy crimes have been treated much more harshly than crimes committed by an individual “in the Anglo-American legal tradition for over 500 years.”


#182

Yes…very good point.

T’s been implicated into a conspiracy, because there were two people with knowledge of what they were skirting (campaign finance laws and scandal that could rock the election.)

And the kicker - is that T can NOT see it, he’s blind to his own malfeasance. He’s been successful in the past to be able to skate by prosecution by paying off people (see T University $25Mil, Trump Casinos - etc **)

It would be a huge mistake for the president to rely on assurances from his legal team that what he did was ordinary and not prosecutable. Rather, if the Cohen allegations are true, what President Trump did was knowingly conspire to violate federal campaign law and to hide it from the American people right before the election, and that very severe crime is one that must be punished.

**Although Trump has said that he “never” settles legal claims, Trump and his businesses have settled with plaintiffs in at least 100 cases (mostly involving personal injury claims arising from injuries at Trump properties), with settlements ranging as high as hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars[1] and recently as high as tens of millions of dollars.[7]


#183

A 3 minute video from Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary for Clinton, Economics Professor at Berkeley. He formulates more of a progressive through line to what T 'n Co may be doing, as far as discrediting all members of the Deep State, disregard for the judicial system, the Constitution and projects that major civil unrest could happen in the near future.


#184

Engrossing interview with the Ukrainian activist Serhiy Leshchenko, the man who first focused the spotlight on Manafort’s misdeeds in the Ukraine – something we’ll be hearing much more about during Manafort’s next trial.

It’s interesting to note that a theme Leshchenko returns to several times during the interview is how much he admires the strength, independence, and integrity of the U.S. judicial system and how it combats government corruption (something, by the way, that Trump appears hell bent on taking away from us).

Foreign Policy: Is it a personal victory for you to see Manafort convicted?

Serhiy Leshchenko: Not a personal victory, but it is in the interest of truth and democracy to have such cases investigated. I wish we would have something like this in Ukraine. The American case demonstrated that with a properly working judicial system, we can prosecute corrupt people. Manafort could be the most influential gray cardinal in the Trump administration, but now he is found guilty. And this is an example of how a proper judicial system works. For Ukraine, this is a good case because political consultants helped very corrupt, even criminal, oligarchs come to power. Of course these people siphoned money from the state budget, from the government, from state companies. Since the Ukrainian revolution happened four and a half years ago, nobody was sentenced for crimes conducted by previous governments or by current governments.

There are two links in this piece that are well worth following:

Leshchenko: There is also a report that Poroshenko paid money through former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen for a meeting.

He’s referring to a hard-hitting BBC report from May that details an alleged, illegal quid pro quo between Ukraine’s Premiere and our President brokered by Cohen. At the time of that report, Cohen denied the allegations, but now that he appears to have become a cooperating witness, maybe he’s changed his tune.

Leshchenko: There is also another interesting story that Manafort and Kilimnik were trying to work in Kyrgyzstan. What the hell is Kyrgyzstan for them? There are not many rich people to pay for their political consulting there, but if they were involved in some geopolitical issues in Kyrgyzstan, it’s more proof that Manafort wasn’t just a spin doctor.

Here, Leshchenko is speaking of a suspicious trip that Manafort took with his Ukrainian right-hand man (a known Russian Intelligence operative) to Kyrgyszstan in 2005 – a trip allegedly paid for by Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska is the Russian oligarch that Manafort wound up deeply in debt to and who Manafort later offered to brief on Trump’s campaign as a way of mitigating that debt (recall his infamous “How do we use to get whole?” email).

Note: Foreign Policy has a pay wall, but it allows you to view a few articles before that kicks in. The quality of their reporting is of the highest standard and is supported by paid subscriptions.


#185

At last, the tide may finally be turning. . .

This is a quick read and should give you a boost this holiday weekend. :us:


#186

An excellent, detailed review of the investigations dogging our President. There have been so many allegations and suspicious activities that I’d even forgotten about some of them (while I’m sure Mueller hasn’t). Remember this one?

Mueller is also investigating the potential role Erik Prince, the infamous private military contractor, played in establishing a back channel to the Russian government for the incoming Trump administration. Prince reportedly met with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, in the Seychelles after Trump’s election. The meeting was facilitated by the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates and George Nader, the crown prince’s adviser. Prince claims the Seychelles meeting with Dmitriev was a chance encounter. Nader is cooperating with Mueller.

And how about these?

Trump’s one-time campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, directed payments from the foundation to benefit Trump’s campaign in the Iowa caucus in 2016, according to the lawsuit. Trump used the foundation to purchase a self-portrait to hang at one of his golf courses. He also used the foundation’s money to settle legal claims made against his properties.

This article is an engaging refresher course for students of Trump’s scandal-ridden administration . . . at least, so far . . . no doubt it will need to be updated soon . . . stay tuned.


#187

This ex-FBI agent is drawing attention to a new branch of the Mueller investigation which may turn out to be the most damaging for Trump and the GOP to date. The plea deal by Sam Patten revealed that foreign funds were secretly funneled into the Trump Inaugural Committee. This is truly a huge development, but due to the blizzard of other news this week, I think the significance has not yet sunk in. After all, since it’s now been established that foreign funds were laundered into a Trump-controlled organization shortly after the election, it’s not a big leap to suppose they were also funneled into a Trump organization (i.e., his campaign) before the election.

Here’s a video of the interview – well worth watching – she makes her points succinctly in just three minutes.

A couple observations:

  • Money laundering (in this case, hiding foreign money that was funneled into a political organization) is a “paper-documented crime” – much in the same way tax evasion is (that’s why the case against Manafort was so strong). It’s very difficult to refute paper-documented crimes in Federal courts and in the court of public opinion.

  • There’s a strong possibility that this crime is just the tip of a newly sighted iceberg (as Rachel Maddow has argued on numerous occasions). Remember the initial indictments against Manafort? They showed how he evaded taxes on such things as oriental rugs, fine suits, etc. The next set of indictments expanded the scope of his alleged crimes exponentially, demonstrating he had actually evaded taxes on many millions of dollars. I believe, in the coming weeks, we may witness a similar dramatic leap in the number and size of these Trump-connected money laundering schemes that come to light.


#188

WSJ takes aim at how the Dems are going to question Kavanaugh’s nomination. And this conservative opinion is using liberal Scotus judge Ruth Ginsburg’s view that no previewing decisions should be aired. Therefore no questions should be asked on Roe v. Wade etc.

Kavanaugh and the Ginsburg Standard
‘No hints, no forecasts, no previews,’ she said in 1993, responding to a question about discrimination.

By
David B. Rivkin Jr. and
Andrew M. Grossman
Sept. 3, 2018 5:35 p.m. ET

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is sworn in at her 1993 confirmation hearing. Photo: Jeffrey Markowitz/Sygma via Getty Images

Don’t blame Brett Kavanaugh when he demurs at his confirmation hearing from answering questions on legal issues that might come before the Supreme Court. It’s the senators who will be in the wrong, for demanding commitments that no judicious nominee could provide. To answer “direct questions on stare decisis on many other matters, including Roe and health care”—as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for—would itself be disqualifying.
That principle has come to be called the Ginsburg Standard, after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As she explained in the opening statement of her 1993 confirmation hearing: “A judge sworn to decide impartially can offer no forecasts, no hints, for that would show not only disregard for the specifics of the particular case—it would display disdain for the entire judicial process.” Or, as she later responded to a question about constitutional protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation: “No hints, no forecasts, no previews.”

It would be a mistake to associate the rule too closely with Justice Ginsburg, who honored it inconsistently at her hearing, or to view it as driven only by policy considerations. In fact, the standard has deep roots in the law and history.

Begin with the Constitution. The Appointments Clause provides that judges, including Supreme Court justices, are appointed by the president “with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” From the nomination of John Jay as the first chief justice in 1789 through the mid-1950s, public confirmation hearings were rare. Few nominees attended them when they did occur, and only a handful testified. Senators had no occasion to grandstand by demanding that a nominee declare his stance on legal controversies.

Since hearings became the norm, the number of questions asked of nominees has exploded, with recent nominees facing more than 700 apiece. Yet two aspects of the process haven’t changed. The first is the refusal of nominees to opine on actual or hypothetical cases that may come before the high court. The second is senators’ griping in response. At a 1968 hearing, Sen. Sam Ervin (D., N.C.) bemoaned that the nominee, Judge Homer Thornberry, had “virtually created a new right not found in the Constitution, which might well be designated as the judicial appointee’s right to refrain from self-incrimination.”

Ervin was wrong. Judges are appointed to exercise the “judicial power.” As per the Constitution, this involves deciding specific “cases” or “controversies”—that is, concrete disputes involving real facts, as opposed to abstract questions of law. Judging, in turn, entails the application of law to the facts of a particular case. The facts matter greatly: The way in which the circumstances of a given case can be distinguished from one in the past or one in the future is often what creates the basis for a legal rule, because it is that distinction that becomes legally material.

Judges don’t decide cases in a vacuum or through divine inspiration. They do it in the crucible of adversarial testing. Appellate judges read the parties’ briefs. They hear the lawyers’ arguments. They review the precedents and the factual record. Then they piece it all together, rendering a decision that, in Justice Ginsburg’s formulation, “should turn on those facts and the governing law, stated and explained in light of the particular arguments the parties or their representatives present.” Opining on a legal question divorced from the context of a particular case is not judging at all. It is speculation, a guess as to what the right rule might be.

In that sense, a senatorial demand that a nominee take one side or the other on a given “issue” is futile. Who is to say which of any number of possible factual circumstances might be relevant when, because there is no case, there are no facts? How can anyone judge the correctness of an argument when, because there are no parties, no one has argued for or against it? Answering at all would be deceptive.

It also would run up against another constitutional guidepost, the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process of law. Litigants are entitled to a “fair trial in a fair tribunal,” including a judge who is impartial and whose mind is not implacably closed to persuasion. A nominee’s advance commitment to decide a question a certain way is incompatible with the appearance of fairness and impartiality that gives the law its legitimacy. It also compromises the independence of the judicial branch, a crucial check on overreaching by the political branches. Even a judge who has a decided an issue in an earlier case remains open to the prospect of going the other way in a later case, on different facts or different arguments. A judge who exchanges a commitment for a confirmation vote—or merely appears to do so—will forever be tainted.

All this holds true for issues already decided by the court, given that what constitutes “settled law” on the Supreme Court is in the eyes of the beholder. Nearly any issue may arise again, and the justices, unlike their counterparts on lower courts, are free to reconsider high-court precedent.

This week senators would do well to stick to more illuminating lines of inquiry: the more than 300 written opinions Judge Kavanaugh issued over his 12 years on the bench, his speeches and articles, his judicial philosophy, his character. There is no legitimate reason to demand hints, forecasts and previews that Judge Kavanaugh is duty-bound to deny.
Messrs. Rivkin and Grossman practice appellate and constitutional law in Washington. Mr. Rivkin served at the Justice Department and the White House Counsel’s Office. Mr. Grossman is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/kavanaugh-and-the-ginsburg-standard-1536010512


(Renee) #189

I often wonder how many GOP also have Russian PAC money in their coffers… especially McConnell - I heard $2.5M…


#190

I’m curious about the source on that?


#191

@Maxfacter @MissJava I, too, recall hearing that a McConnell PAC had received large sums of Russian-connected funds, but I couldn’t remember the source or any details – so I did some digging around.

All of the references related to this seem to point back to two articles published by The Dallas News (links below). The second article is an update of the first, but I could only find a reference to the sources in the first (Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets) – and the author doesn’t specify which FEC documents or where to find the information in OpenSecrets). So, it’s annoying not being able to trace the figures back to their source. The Dallas News is asking us to take them at their word – I will because they appear to be reputable, but I’d sure like to see more transparent sourcing along with some additional reporting. I wish WJT, WaPo, or NYT would pick this up.

Anyway, here are the two articles with some relevant quotations.

TIP: The Dallas News has a paywall (which is fine with me – got to pay the light bills). They allow a few free views, but be aware that those are very limited. In other words, you’ll want to read the article the first time you click on it – or print it out – or you may hit the paywall on your return.

First version of the article from August 2017:

Paragraph that mentions sources:

During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard “Len” Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets[dot]org.

[Note from KJ: I used [dot] above to prevent the forum software from automatically creating a link to the Open Secrets website – that’s because The Dallas News article does not link to it – in other words, the article does not site specific web pages.]

The second version of the article is much longer, but does not mention any sources (unless I missed them):

This second version was published Decemeber 15, 2017, and was then republished (without additional changes, I believe) on May 8, 2018.

Paragraph regarding McConnell, Rubio, and Graham:

In 2015-16 . . . Blavatnik’s political contributions soared and made a hard right turn as he pumped $6.35 million into GOP political action committees, with millions of dollars going to top Republican leaders including Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham

If you go to the first info-graphic and hover your cursor over McConnell’s photo, you’ll see this text box (aside: it’s truly aggravating to be forced to garner information in this “interactive” way):

Blavatnik contributed a total of $3.5 million to a PAC associated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Blavatnik contributed $1.5 million to the GOP Senate Leadership Fund PAC in the name of Access Industries and another $1 million in the name of AI-Altep Holdings during the 2015/2016 election season. And as of September 2017, he had contributed another $1 million this year through AI–Altep.

Note that this updated version of the article (Dec., 2017) adds another million delivered from Blavatnik to McConnell’s PAC, upping the total to $3.5 million compared with the reporting of $2.5 million in the original version of the article (Aug., 2017).

I understand that Blavatnik’s contributions do not violate laws prohibiting donations from foreigners because he has dual-citizenship: in the U.S. and U.K. You might say he is a true “man of the world.” He was born in the Ukraine, educated for a time in Moscow, then at Columbia, then Harvard. He resides in the U.K. (All this according to Wikipedia). He also has close ties to Putin (according to various accounts, e. g., these pieces from The Guardian and Forbes – but these aren’t about campaign donations).

So we can’t really say unequivocally that the McConnell PAC donations were “Russian money” – they would be if they were sent from Putin (or a Russian associate or the Russian government) to Blavatnik and then to the PAC. Unfortunately, I think this would be hard to prove since Blavatnik is worth billions and does a lot of business with Russia so it seems it would be fairly easy to hide the money trail (at least from reporters – maybe not from the FBI, though). I hope we see some more reporting on this and I sure hope Mueller is all over it.

Footnote: IMHO, after we flip the House, one of the very first orders of business must be to plug the loopholes that are being used to route foreign money into U.S. campaigns and we need to apply some real muscle to enforcement. The GOP appears to be making zero effort here – never mind that the very foundations of our democracy are under attack.


#192

KA :boom:

WOW…this is big. Mystery WH insider writes about being inside the WH and says there has been talk of the 25th Amendment in the Cabinet.

My first bet of who it may be…would be the ‘deniers’ of the Woodruff book - namely, General(s) Mattis and Kelly.

A bigger mission than they signed on for…

The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. We invite you to submit a question about the essay or our vetting process here.

President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I would know. I am one of them.

To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and **the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.


That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.

The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.

We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.

KA :boom:


#193

David Furm of The Atlantic responds the the Anonymous Op-Ed in The NY Times, calling it a constitutional crisis.

A cowardly coup from within the administration threatens to enflame the president’s paranoia and further endanger American security.

Impeachment is a constitutional mechanism. The 25th Amendment is a constitutional mechanism. Mass resignations followed by voluntary testimony to congressional committees are a constitutional mechanism. Overt defiance of presidential authority by the president’s own appointees—now that’s a constitutional crisis.

If the president’s closest advisers believe that he is morally and intellectually unfit for his high office, they have a duty to do their utmost to remove him from it, by the lawful means at hand. That duty may be risky to their careers in government or afterward. But on their first day at work, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution—and there were no “riskiness” exemptions in the text of that oath.

On Wednesday, though, a “senior official in the Trump administration” published an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times, writing:

Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. I would know. I am one of them.

The author of the anonymous op-ed is hoping to vindicate the reputation of like-minded senior Trump staffers. See, we only look complicit! Actually, we’re the real heroes of the story.

But what the author has just done is throw the government of the United States into even more dangerous turmoil. He or she has enflamed the paranoia of the president and empowered the president’s willfulness.

What happens the next time a staffer seeks to dissuade the president from, say, purging the Justice Department to shut down the Mueller investigation? The author of the Timesop-ed has explicitly told the president that those who offer such advice do not have the president’s best interests at heart, and are, in fact, actively subverting his best interests as he understands them on behalf of ideas of their own.

He’ll grow more defiant, more reckless, more anti-constitutional, and more dangerous.

And those who do not quit or are not fired in the next few days will have to work even more assiduously to prove themselves loyal, obedient, and on the team. Things will be worse after this piece. They will be worse because of this piece.

The new Bob Woodward book set the bad precedent. The high official who thought the president so addled that he would not remember the paper he snatched off his desk? Those who thought the president stupid, ignorant, beholden to Russia—and then exited the administration to return to their comfortable, lucrative occupations? Who substituted deep-background gripe sessions with a reporter for offering detailed proof of presidential unfitness, or worse, before the House or Senate? Yes, better than the robotic servility of the public record. But only slightly.

What would be better?

Speak in your own name. Resign in a way that will count. Present the evidence that will justify an invocation of the 25th Amendment, or an impeachment, or at the very least, the first necessary step toward either outcome, a Democratic Congress after the November elections.

Your service in government is valuable. Thank you for it. But it is not so indispensable that it can compensate for the continuing tenure of a president you believe to be amoral, untruthful, irrationally anti-democratic, unpatriotic, and dangerous. Previous generations of Americans have sacrificed fortunes, health, and lives to serve the country. You are asked only to tell the truth aloud and with your name attached.


#194

The President responds to the Anonymous NY Times Op-ed on camera. Click link for video :point_down:


#195

Wow – I had no idea that Kavanaugh has been instrumental in opening the floodgates of foreign influence in our elections. I’m wondering if this “under-the-radar,” ruling by Kavanaugh is the real reason Trump nominated him. Awesome reporting by Mother Jones.

In February, special counsel Robert Mueller handed down a stunning indictment against 13 Russians and three Russian companies for interfering in the 2016 election. The 37-page document laid out an expansive and well-financed influence operation to sow discord in the election and help elect Donald Trump. It included charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

To the surprise of many, there were no election-related charges. The reason is almost certainly a 2011 ruling by Brett Kavanaugh.

[Kavanaugh] gutted the portion of the law that banned foreign spending that is not “express advocacy.” Following his ruling, some of the ads paid for by the Russians in 2016 and named in the February indictment—featuring such messages as “Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote” and “Hillary is Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is”—may well be legal foreign influence activity.

Justin Levitt, an election law expert and former Justice Department official during the Obama administration, says that when it comes to most noncitizens, “Congress said you may not give money or spend money in an attempt to influence an election. Period. Kavanaugh implemented a huge carveout.”

. . . Rick Hasen of the University of California, Irvine School of Law told the Washington Post in July that Kavanaugh’s decision creates “potentially a huge loophole for foreign and undisclosed issue ads on federal elections.”


(Renee) #196

I first read this online on someone’s blog…sorry I do not have that handy now. It was at least a year or more ago, Then I was reading that exact same amount listed in Unger’s book, which is well referenced. I think what is scary still is the other banking involvements, mostly Russian but what about Deutsche bank and the SC judge’s son working their and that he was nearly run out of the Supreme Court or that Mercer’s the largest customer or that this bank is big on doing the wash-$$$? Just are larger circle out there waiting to take their turn after the Citizens United finding? Does anyone else read Bill Parish’s blog?


#197

Truth matters. And to have uncovered the untruths that Judge Kavanaugh had been promoting - no knowledge that in 2004 he was tipped off to ‘stolen’ emails from his rival Democratic nominating group is absurdly unsettling.

The Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee did put forth their best effort to stop this nomination. The NYT editorial board agrees that R judges should not be carried through to the goal posts because these untruths have been closely guarded.

Let’s hope he is not allowed a Supreme Court seat.

Opinion
Confirmed: Brett Kavanaugh Can’t Be Trusted

A perfect nominee for a president with no clear relation to the truth.

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

In a more virtuous world, Judge Brett Kavanaugh would be deeply embarrassed by the manner in which he has arrived at the doorstep of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

He was nominated by a president who undermines daily the nation’s democratic order and mocks the constitutional values that Judge Kavanaugh purports to hold dear.

Now he’s being rammed through his confirmation process with an unprecedented degree of secrecy and partisan maneuvering by Republican senators who, despite their overflowing praise for his legal acumen and sterling credentials, appear terrified for the American people to find out much of anything about him beyond his penchant for coaching girls’ basketball.

Perhaps most concerning, Judge Kavanaugh seems to have trouble remembering certain important facts about his years of service to Republican administrations. More than once this week, he testified in a way that appeared to directly contradict evidence in the record.

For example, he testified that Roe v. Wade is “settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court.” But he said essentially the opposite in a 2003 email leaked to The Times. “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so,” he wrote then.

Judge Kavanaugh’s backers in the Senate brushed this off by pointing out that his 2003 statement was factually correct. They’re right, which means that his testimony this week was both disingenuous and meaningless.

As we’ve learned with each new trickle of previously withheld documents, Judge Kavanaugh didn’t start misleading senators just this week.

At his 2004 confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee, he denied any involvement in the vetting of a controversial judicial nominee while serving as one of President George W. Bush’s White House lawyers. The nominee, William Pryor Jr., had among other things called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.” In fact, Mr. Kavanaugh was more than a little involved, as emails from that period — which Senate Republicans had withheld until early Thursday morning — made clear.

In that 2004 hearing and again in 2006, when he was being considered for a seat on the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., Mr. Kavanaugh told Congress, under oath, that he knew nothing about the extensive theft of secret strategy documents from Democratic senators’ computers by Republican staffers. As it turns out, he did in fact receive those documents or summaries of them. But he now claims that he had no reason to believe that they had been stolen, even though one email he got had the subject line “spying” and began, “I have a friend who is a mole for us on the left.”

Then there are the persistent doubts about his truthfulness in telling senators in 2006 that he had no knowledge of Mr. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program or his detainee treatment policy — claims that have been called into question by yet more emails, which showed he knew about both of those things years before they became public.

As Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois told Judge Kavanaugh on Thursday, “You say that words matter. You claim to be a textualist when you interpret other people’s words, but you don’t want to be held accountable for the plain meaning of your own words.”

Judge Kavanaugh was quick to provide lawyerly explanations for all of these discrepancies, but they paint a pattern that’s hard to ignore: He misstates facts under oath, and Republicans cover for him by making it hard, if not impossible, to get the documents proving it. With the help of the White House and a personal lawyer for Mr. Bush, Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has subverted a long-established, nonpartisan process and hidden more than 90 percent of the material pertaining to Judge Kavanaugh’s time in government.

It’s only thanks to Senate Democrats and others that we’ve been able to see important pieces of the judge’s lengthy paper trail. There is far more that was never even requested. Far from being embarrassed by all this, Judge Kavanaugh is acting like someone who knows there is virtually nothing he can do to imperil his nomination.

Instead, he’s followed his own cynical advice to a 2002 judicial nominee: “She should not talk about her views on specific policy or legal issues,” he wrote in an email then. “She should say that she has a commitment to follow Supreme Court precedent, that she understands and appreciates the role of a circuit judge, that she will adhere to statutory text, that she has no ideological agenda.”

That is more or less how Judge Kavanaugh got through his hearings. But his ideological agenda is well known, which is precisely why he’s been on Republican Supreme Court shortlists for the last decade. That agenda includes, for starters, a well-established hostility to women’s reproductive rights and a stunningly expansive view of presidential power and impunity.

Republicans defend their steamrollering by saying that most Democrats have already made up their minds to oppose Judge Kavanaugh. That’s rich: In the months before the 2016 election, multiple high-ranking Republican senators openly vowed to block any and all Supreme Court picks by Hillary Clinton, period. It’s also irrelevant. The people deserve to know everything possible about nominees to a lifetime seat on the highest court in the land, and they depend on their senators to seek out that information and share it.

The Constitution calls this process advice and consent. Until the last few years, Republicans claimed to take that responsibility seriously. Now they are making a mockery of what is meant to be a careful and deliberative process by playing three-card monte with the American people. They did the same with last year’s tax bill, rushing it through in the dead of night with virtually no debate or review.

The Republicans engage in this sort of subterfuge for an obvious reason: While they hold unified power in Washington, most of their agenda is hugely unpopular. So they hide as much of it as possible out of a fear that if more of it came to light, they will pay at the polls. Come November, voters can make that fear come true.


#198

#199

Very damning non-endorsement from a former colleague…David Brock and his views on Brett Kavanaugh.

David Brock I knew Brett Kavanaugh during his years as a Republican operative. Don’t let him sit on the Supreme Court.
We were part of a close circle of cynical hard-right operatives being groomed for much bigger things.

I used to know Brett Kavanaugh pretty well. And, when I think of Brett now, in the midst of his hearings for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, all I can think of is the old “Aesop’s Fables” adage: “A man is known by the company he keeps.”

And that’s why I want to tell any senator who cares about our democracy: Vote no.

Twenty years ago, when I was a conservative movement stalwart, I got to know Brett Kavanaugh both professionally and personally.
Brett Kavanaugh proves the Supreme Court swing vote is dead
Sep.04.201802:34

Brett actually makes a cameo appearance in my memoir of my time in the GOP, “Blinded By The Right.” I describe him at a party full of zealous young conservatives gathered to watch President Bill Clinton’s 1998 State of the Union address — just weeks after the story of his affair with a White House intern had broken. When the TV camera panned to Hillary Clinton, I saw Brett — at the time a key lieutenant of Ken Starr, the independent counsel investigating various Clinton scandals — mouth the word "bitch."

But there’s a lot more to know about Kavanaugh than just his Pavlovian response to Hillary’s image. Brett and I were part of a close circle of cold, cynical and ambitious hard-right operatives being groomed by GOP elders for much bigger roles in politics, government and media. And it’s those controversial associations that should give members of the Senate and the American public serious pause.

Call it Kavanaugh’s cabal: There was his colleague on the Starr investigation, Alex Azar, now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Mark Paoletta is now chief counsel to Vice President Mike Pence; House anti-Clinton gumshoe Barbara Comstock is now a Republican member of Congress. Future Fox News personalities Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson were there with Ann Coulter, now a best-selling author, and internet provocateur Matt Drudge.

At one time or another, each of them partied at my Georgetown townhouse amid much booze and a thick air of cigar smoke.

In a rough division of labor, Kavanaugh played the role of lawyer — one of the sharp young minds recruited by the Federalist Society to infiltrate the federal judiciary with true believers. Through that network, Kavanaugh was mentored by D.C. Appeals Court Judge Laurence Silberman, known among his colleagues for planting leaks in the press for partisan advantage.

When, as I came to know, Kavanaugh took on the role of designated leaker to the press of sensitive information from Starr’s operation, we all laughed that Larry had taught him well. (Of course, that sort of political opportunism by a prosecutor is at best unethical, if not illegal.)

Another compatriot was George Conway (now Kellyanne’s husband), who led a secretive group of right-wing lawyers — we called them “the elves” — who worked behind the scenes directing the litigation team of Paula Jones, who had sued Clinton for sexual harassment. I knew then that information was flowing quietly from the Jones team via Conway to Starr’s office — and also that Conway’s go-to man was none other than Brett Kavanaugh.

That critical flow of inside information allowed Starr, in effect, to set a perjury trap for Clinton, laying the foundation for a crazed national political crisis and an unjust impeachment over a consensual affair.

But the cabal’s godfather was Ted Olson, the then-future solicitor general for George W. Bush and now a sainted figure of the GOP establishment (and of some liberals for his role in legalizing same-sex marriage). Olson had a largely hidden role as a consigliere to the “Arkansas Project” — a multi-million dollar dirt-digging operation on the Clintons, funded by the eccentric right-wing billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife and run through The American Spectator magazine, where I worked at the time.

Both Ted and Brett had what one could only be called an unhealthy obsession with the Clintons — especially Hillary. While Ted was pushing through the Arkansas Project conspiracy theories claiming that Clinton White House lawyer and Hillary friend Vincent Foster was murdered (he committed suicide), Brett was costing taxpayers millions by pedaling the same garbage at Starr’s office.

A detailed analysis of Kavanaugh’s own notes from the Starr Investigation reveals he was cherry-picking random bits of information from the Starr investigation — as well as the multiple previous investigations — attempting vainly to legitimize wild right-wing conspiracies. For years he chased down each one of them without regard to the emotional cost to Foster’s family and friends, or even common decency.

Kavanaugh was not a dispassionate finder of fact but rather an engineer of a political smear campaign. And after decades of that, he expects people to believe he’s changed his stripes.

Like millions of Americans this week, I tuned into Kavanaugh’s hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee with great interest. In his opening statement and subsequent testimony, Kavanaugh presented himself as a “neutral and impartial arbiter” of the law. Judges, he said, were not players but akin to umpires — objectively calling balls and strikes. Again and again, he stressed his “independence” from partisan political influences.

But I don’t need to see any documents to tell you who Kavanaugh is — because I’ve known him for years. And I’ll leave it to all the lawyers to parse Kavanaugh’s views on everything from privacy rights to gun rights. But I can promise you that any pretense of simply being a fair arbiter of the constitutionality of any policy regardless of politics is simply a pretense. He made up his mind nearly a generation ago — and, if he’s confirmed, he’ll have nearly two generations to impose it upon the rest of us.


#200

It seems irrefutable…T’s preference for protecting himself from the Russian investigation is tantamount.

Opinion
The Urgent Question of Trump and Money Laundering

How Bruce Ohr, President Trump’s latest Twitter target, fits a suspicious pattern of behavior on Russia.

Donald Trump has a long history of doing what he thinks is best for Donald Trump. If he needs to discard friends, allies or wives along the way, so be it. “I’m a greedy person,” he has explained.

It’s important to keep this trait in mind when trying to make sense of the Russia story. Trump’s affinity for Russia, after all, is causing problems for him. It has created tensions with his own staff and his Republican allies in Congress. Most voters now believe he has something to hide. And the constant talk of Russia on television clearly enrages Trump.

He could make his life easier if only he treated Vladimir Putin the way he treats most people who cause problems — and cast Putin aside. Yet Trump can’t bring himself to do so.

This odd refusal is arguably the biggest reason to believe that Putin really does have leverage over Trump. Maybe it’s something shocking, like a sex tape or evidence of campaign collusion by Trump himself. Or maybe it’s the scandal that’s been staring us in the face all along: Illicit financial dealings — money laundering — between Trump’s business and Russia.

The latest reason to be suspicious is Trump’s attacks on a formerly obscure Justice Department official named Bruce Ohr. Trump has repeatedly criticized Ohr and called for him to be fired. Ohr’s sin is that he appears to have been marginally involved in inquiries into Trump’s Russian links. But Ohr fits a larger pattern. In his highly respected three-decade career in law enforcement, he has specialized in going after Russian organized crime.

It just so happens that most of the once-obscure bureaucrats whom Trump has tried to discredit also are experts in some combination of Russia, organized crime and money laundering.

It’s true of Andrew McCabe (the former deputy F.B.I. director whose firing Trump successfully lobbied for), Andrew Weissmann (the only official working for Robert Mueller whom Trump singles out publicly) and others. They are all Trump bogeymen — and all among “the Kremlin’s biggest adversaries in the U.S. government,” as Natasha Bertrand wrote in The Atlantic. Trump, she explained, seems to be trying to rid the government of experts in Russian organized crime.

I realize that this evidence is only circumstantial and well short of proof. But it’s one of many suspicious patterns about Trump and Russia. When you look at them together, it’s hard to come away thinking that the most likely explanation is coincidence.

Consider: The financially rickety Trump Organization, shunned by most mainstream banks, long relied on less scrupulous Russian investors. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. said a decade ago. “We have all the funding we need out of Russia,” Eric Trump reportedly said in 2013. And what was the rare major bank to work with Trump? Deutsche Bank, which has a history of illegal Russian money laundering.

Trump also had a habit of selling real estate to Russians in all-cash deals. Money launderers like such deals, because they can turn illegally earned cash into a legitimate asset, usually at an inflated price that rewards the seller for the risk. One especially dubious deal was Trump’s $95 million sale of a Palm Beach house to a Russian magnate in 2008 — during the housing bust, only four years after Trump had bought the house for $41 million.

Then there is Trump’s paranoia about scrutiny of his businesses. He has refused to release his tax returns. He said that Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line by looking into his finances. When word leaked (incorrectly) that Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank’s records on Trump, he moved to fire Mueller (only to be dissuaded by aides). Trump is certainly acting as if his business history contains damaging information.

For months, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has been trying to get Congress to pay attention to the possibility of money laundering. He points out that Mueller’s mandate does not necessarily include a full investigation of Trump’s businesses. But those businesses could still have behaved in ways that give Putin, a hostile foreign leader, leverage over the president of the United States.

“We need to find out whether that is the case and say so. Or we need to find out that is not the case and say so,” Schiff told me. “But to leave it as an unanswered question, I just think would be negligent to our national security.” So far, congressional Republicans have chosen negligence.

Which means that the November elections may determine whether we ever get answers. If Democrats win House control, Schiff will gain subpoena power. If Republicans keep control, just imagine how emboldened Trump will feel. He could mount a full-on assault on the rule of law by shutting down Mueller’s investigation and any other official scrutiny of the Trump Organization.

At this point, who can doubt that Trump wants to do so? Presumably, he has a good reason.